The move toward rifles and pistol-caliber carbines for patrol continues unabated, and for all the right reasons. In the case of pistol-caliber carbines, even if they don't deliver the kind of performance a rifle caliber can, they will at least enable officers to engage threats with accurate, aimed fire at greater range than a pistol.
Current experience in agencies that issue or authorize pistol-caliber carbines has shown that officers will deploy them with more frequency than shotguns and have used them even at very short ranges (those 3- to 15-yard encounters so common in law enforcement). What has been found is that more shots are hitting the targets, less are going astray (I always count those as "million-dollar rounds"), and the accuracy of the hits is almost invariably enhanced.
So let's do the math here. Rather than being squad car loungers (like so many shotguns can be), pistol-caliber carbines are being consistently deployed if a threat may be present. When used, the hit ratio is higher and the accuracy of those hits is significantly better. Cost is often minimal, most are ruggedly constructed, and vehicle racks are easily available. Sounds like a win-win situation and you only have to ask the agencies that currently deploy them how well they are working.
My own alma mater, the San Diego Police Department, authorizes the Ruger PC9. My wife, Suzi, is still a cop on the San Diego force, and when I drop her off at the station during our carpool to our respective jobs, I have to admit it's good to see those young men and women with those slung carbines as they load their vehicles prior to heading out for their shift. Maybe it's the father in me, but it gives me peace of mind knowing they have that option available.
According to officers I've interviewed on many agencies, it's not uncommon to see two or three carbines deployed during any high-risk vehicle stop or other situation where the need might arise. It's a far cry from a choice of OO-Buck or your handgun, and I'll bet those officers at the infamous North Hollywood bank robbery would have given up a month's pay for the sound of a dozen carbines returning fire. While perhaps not always as good as a "real" rifle, the concept of the pistol caliber carbine is still, nonetheless, a viable alternative if it's the only long-range option available.
With the tens of thousands of Glocks and 1911s out there, a handy method of converting them into pistol-caliber carbines makes sense. Indeed, with the many thousands being impounded yearly, many agencies could simply buy a conversion unit and complete them with guns they have in-house-guns that didn't cost them a dime.
Ray Herriott of Mech-Tech invented the Carbine Conversion Unit (CCU) about 10 years ago and has honed the design over the years. Today, it's offered in versions to fit the large-frame Glocks (like the 17, 20, 21, 22, 34, and 35), all 1911 platforms, and the Para Ordnance guns (using Mech-Tech's "Parablock" conversion unit). Cost is around $250 or so, depending on the model, and I'm sure a bare-bones, iron-sighted version could be had for much less in department-issue quantities.
Keep in mind the CCU is not a firearm. Consequently, there is no fuss about paperwork, shipping, and the like. It's simply an "accessory." The "gun" part is your own 1911 or Glock (look for versions for the Hi-Power, Ruger P-series, and Beretta/Taurus down the road). The CCUs are "minimalist" units and for the most part are very simple. And remember, simple is a good thing. The parts are well made, show excellent workmanship, and the entire package is made in the USA.
A blow-back action means even further simplification. No locking bolts, gas systems, or other goodies to clog up or break down. But as a blow-back, the CCU needs full-power ammo to properly cycle the action. This isn't a problem since police agencies usually issue high-quality, full power ammo for duty use.
Conversion is simple. Take the slide off your gun, lock the bolt back on the CCU, slip your gun's frame into the cut-out on the bottom of the receiver of the CCU, and, in the case of the 1911, use your slide stop to secure it all together. Lower the bolt, snick your safety on, and you have a "cocked and locked" carbine. Total conversion time? About 30 seconds if you're a complete idiot, even faster if you already know how to spell your own name. The magazine functions the same, mag releases are the same, trigger pull remains the same, and, simply put, the whole idea works like gangbusters.
Like anything, if you use what you train with, things run more simply when the chips are down. If you shoot a Glock or 1911, this is a golden opportunity to have a carbine that works exactly the same. Recently, I was lamenting the fact there is so much talk about "high speed, low drag" when talking about tactics, weapons, or even lunch. To which an old cop, a veteran of several gunfights, mused, "Well, it's been my experience when it hits the fan, things have a tendency to turn 'low speed, high drag' if you get my drift." I couldn't agree more. And that proves all the more that duty gear should be simple, reliable, and familiar.
The CCU offers virtual "straight-line" feeding of the ammo and in the hundreds of rounds we shot through three units, we experienced no malfunctions of any kind. We also never cleaned or oiled anything and came away very impressed. But keep in mind, the sum of the parts will equal the final package, so if you use a "junk" frame, you may have problems. We used a Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special frame and Springfield Armory's new WWII model, both top-quality tools.
Because several versions of the CCU are available, you can have anything from a ruggedly simple unit with iron sights and very minimalist features, to full-fledged fancy rigs that mirror their full-size rifle brethren in features, if not in stopping power.
Groups hovered around 1.5 inches to 2 inches at 25 yards, and we kept them inside of the head area on a B25 silhouette at 50 yards with no trouble, using Federal Tactical .45 ACP and Black Hills 230-grain FMC ammo. Velocities were slightly higher than in pistols, with the few loads we shot averaging about 200 feet per second faster (depending upon bullet weight) out of the CCU's 16.5-inch barrel. Some standard velocity loads might be the same or even slightly lower, so test what you're going to carry yourself to find out. Some lightweight bullets are geared for pistol velocities and the higher velocity of the carbine barrel may cause some bullets to break apart. Study your ammo choice if you go this route.
The CCU was fun to use in-close on steel plates and the Bianchi falling-plate rack at the range was a snap to clean, faster than any of us could do using a standard pistol. Also, keep in mind Mech-Tech makes the CCU in a cross-section of calibers, from 9mm to the .460 Rowland, so don't think you're restricted to just the .45 ACP. As a matter of fact, a .45 ACP 1911 frame can be adapted for the .40 S&W CCU or 10MM CCU, just by using the appropriate magazine.
Mech-Tech's basic CCU model is very, very rugged. Don't tell them, but I took the one I had and chucked it across the garage floor about a dozen times (without my 1911 frame installed). It got dinged, the paint got chipped, my dog hid, and I got tired of hearing the clatter. Then, the next time we went off to the range to test some other guns, the CCU perked along just as well as the first time. I think it grinned at me when it was over as if to say, "Ha, and you were expecting something else?" The CCU makes a dandy conversion and even if you only get one for fun, you can hardly go wrong for the price. And besides, you don't have to tell your wife you bought a new gun. All you did was buy a new "accessory."
Roy Huntington is editor of American Handgunner magazine and a member of the POLICE Advisory Board.